Fair does not mean equal

Been having some challenges with my kids and getting them to understand the principal that fair does not always mean equal.

Case in point last week. My son had to spend a few hours in an isolation ward in emergency at the hospital (it’s okay – he’s fine). But during the course of the 6 hour stay he got stuck in an isolation room and poked and prodded by Dr’s and nurses. When he was finished and released, we wanted to reward him with a little something, so I picked up a little Star Wars light sabre for him that he has been eyeing up for the past few weeks. This prompted a “hey, that’s not fair” from his older sister. I tried to explain why it actually was fair, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.

It works both ways. At 7, my daughter has been doing summer camps this year and having a great time. This has led to some “that’s not fair” resentment from my 4 year old pre-school son.

My kids have this sense that unless everything is exactly equal, things are unfair. But yet, they are different kids – different people with different interests and (at 7 and 4) different abilities. Why would you want things to be exactly equal in those circumstances? Yet somehow, they have this feeling that unless they get exactly the same things and are treated exactly the same, then one is getting more.

It used to drive me nuts when my parents would get me and my brother and sister the exact same thing at Christmas in an attempt to keep things equal, but I understand the temptation to do this now that I have kids of my own and am fighting the “it’s not fair” battle. I made the mistake of snapping at one last week “well, life isn’t fair”. Fortunately, my wife caught me and put a stop to that line of thought.

So, how do you handle the fair, but not equal battle at your house?

Looking for SAHD to be on The National

A producer from CBC’s The National contacted me hoping to interview me as part of a story they are doing on stay at home Dad’s. I’m pretty sure they got my name from this Financial Post article about stay at home Dad’s which seems to imply that a) the Post interviewed me and that b) I am still a stay at home Dad. Neither are true. The quotes attributed to me in the article are pulled directly from this post I wrote in 2005 when I was a stay at home dad. Just for the record, I am generally okay with them pulling content from my blog as everything is released under a Creative Commons license. But I’m a little less comfortable with the way the article is written, which seems to imply that they interviewed me for the article because, if they would have interviewed me, they would realize that I haven’t been a SAHD since 2007.

Anyway, if you are a SAHD, The National is looking to interview someone for a story they are working on. Preferably, that SAHD will be in Toronto, but it’s the Mother Corp and I’m sure they can scream up a camera crew in any major city in the country so don’t let that stop you. If you are interested, connect Laura MacNaughton, Producer, CBC News: The National at work: 416-205-3372 or via email at laura.macnaughton@cbc.ca.

Schools – the heart of the community


There are some things that I don’t think you truly get until you become a parent. For me, one of those things is the role of schools in our society.

Before becoming a parent, I thought schools were simply a place where kids went to learn the curriculum, and, perhaps, participate in a few extra-curricular activities.  However, now that The Girl has almost completed her first full year at public school, I am beginning to realize that schools have a much bigger role to play in our society. Not only are they a place where kids go to learn, they are also places where communities form and develop.

Each morning I have the opportunity to drop my daughter off at school has become a community building opportunity. In the schoolyard waiting for the morning bell to ring, I connect with the people in my neighbourhood, some of whom I have known since their kids and The Girl began daycare together 6 years ago. This has become my social circle. The parents of my daughters friends have now become my friends, and the school and the activities that happen there have become spaces for us to connect and kindle our friendships. To develop our community.

This year, the primary school my daughter is attending turns 100 years old, and the celebrations have ramped up as the year comes to a close. In the past few weeks, my wife and I have attended a school musical celebrating the centenary performed by 150 students, a school sponsored community picnic attended by scores of families, and a special 100th anniversary Victorian tea party at which each class in the school dressed up in costumes representing each of the decades in the school’s 100 year history. Tomorrow, we are marching in a local parade with other families from the school, proudly wearing our red school colours. Each of these events have become shared events in which kids, parents and grandparents have gathered, mingled, talked, danced, laughed, shared food and stories, and played together.

These events have nothing at all to do with the curriculum, but have everything to do with learning. I see it in my daughter as she speaks about her school with pride, singing songs that were composed for the school musical, and feeling like she is at a special place. She is learning about citizenship, civic pride, and the importance of community. I can almost see the roots growing as she moves out of our house and begins connecting to a larger world.

I didn’t get it. But now that I am a parent, I do. I feel like this year I have had my eyes opened, and truly see just how important schools are to our communities – not just for teaching kids the basics of reading, math and science, but the role – the crucial role – that they have in  developing caring and compassionate human beings by nurturing in them a sense of belonging.

I think I get it now.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do

Mom & Dad

Sandi Lalonde August 18, 1946 – February 8, 2011

“Call Me Sandi!”

If you were a friend of a 16 year old me, that is probably the first thing you heard my Mom say when you met her – “Call Me Sandi!”

It was said with that unique larger than life “Call Me Sandi” attitude. Those of you who knew my Mom in another time probably remember that Sandi. The Sandi who loved to laugh, who’s exuberance, zeal and brash attitude made her a sassy broad in all the best senses of that term. As I have been thinking back on my Mom over these past few days, I have been thinking a lot about “Call Me Sandi.”

“Call Me Sandi” – a lover of all things cherub and angel, of things dainty, precious and delicate. Of Elvis, and of her family.

“Call Me Sandi” was a scrapper – she never gave up. Stubborn and headstrong, she could be as tenacious as a pit bull. I often grew up thinking my mom coined the term the best defense is a good offense. Which is, perhaps, why the past few years have seemed especially difficult as I watched a scrapper fade.

Mom was a proud homemaker, but when times got tough would take on extra work as a medical receptionist, a teacher aide or whatever else was required to make ends meet.

She was also a crafty lady – she never met a craft that she didn’t like. She cherished working with ceramics, floral arrangements, swags, dolls and anything else that required imagination and creativity, and she often gave these creations away to friends, family members and even acquaintances who admired special pieces.

Mom loved to bake, and I remember when I was a kid that Christmas baking season began around the same time as the first day of school. And even though we were only a family of 5, by the time Christmas rolled around Mom and Dad had stockpiled enough Nanaimo bars, date squares, slices, Cinnamon rolls, puffed wheat cake,nuts and bolts, rice krispie squares, rum balls. matrimonial squares, rocky road squares, Maple fudge, chocolate fudge, runny fudge, peanut butter cookies and great shortbread cookies to feed a family of 35 for 5 Christmases. When I asked my childhood friends this week about their favorite memories of my Mom, it amazed me how many people’s responses included memories of my Mom’s baking.

When my sister and I arrived at the house Wednesday night, we discovered a book of Mom’s that my sister had given her some years ago. It was a kind of diary called Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – your life story in your own words. It turns out, Mom made a few entries in the book and answered some of the questions, and we would like to share with you some of Mom’s earliest memories – memories that we, too, are just discovering.

What was your favorite pastime as a child? My favorite pastime was playing with paper dolls and dressing up and putting on plays with my sister Dee and all the neighbour girls. I also liked playing school and I was the teacher as we were the only family to have chalk and a chalk board.

What are your earliest memories of church? I went to church when I was six. My earliest memory was that the minister talked and talked. It was a very long service.

List one special memory you have of each of your brothers and sisters.

  • Pat – Lots of fun. Played games with me.
  • Viv – Taught me Grade 5 math and gave me perms.
  • Dot – Took me along for rides in the car with her and her boyfriends. Bought me a dress.
  • Dee – Taught me to twirl a baton.
  • Eileen – When her and I would fight, she would take my clothes and hide them, especially if I had a favorite skirt or sweater. Eventually she gave them back.
  • Al – Gave me cigarettes (funny. I’ll bet there are a lot of people who could say the same about my Mom). He let me use his nice sweater.
  • Dick – Built us forts and played with me.

Family relationships are seldom easy, often complicated and full of twists and turns that can sometimes take you into dark places. You all know. You are all part of families. These relationships bring with them the highest highs and the lowest lows. But at the heart of it all is always love. No matter how dark things get, love endures. It is the glue that holds us together. The light that illuminates. And it is love that has brought us all here today to pay tribute to my mom.

Just call her Sandi.

Excerpts from the eulogy I gave to my Mom on February 12, 2011

The ad purge is complete

I removed the final block of ad code from my site and have added an advertising policy that explains that the intent of this site is to be ad free. If you do come across any old affiliate links or blocks of Google Adsense or text ads that once were on this site, please let me know and I’ll remove them.

I think I need a site facelift now that the ad’s are gone and not taking up so much space. Hmmm…time for a redesign I think.

Dumping the ads and reclaiming my space

This post has been a long time coming, but was finally pushed into the fore by a combination of finally having the time and this post on the Best Daddy Bloggers awards.

When I first began blogging 6 or 7 years ago (gawd, has it been that long?), the parent blogging world was very different, and my attitude towards blogging was very different than it is today. At the time, I wanted to undertake the technical challenges of setting up a personal webspace, having just finished a post-grad program in information technology. I also was about to have my first kid, and want a space to document that journey.

But I also wanted some place to connect with other Dad’s. At the time, there weren’t a lot of places for Dad’s on the web, not a lot of space for personal stories.

In those first few years, I wrote a few posts that got popular and passed around. I was seeing lots of traffic. I was also trying to balance work/life, and thought that maybe I could turn this blog thing into a way to make a few bucks. So, I signed up for Adsense, and explored the world of making a few bucks off my Daddy experiences. This was, oh, like 2005/06 or so. Early days.

But then I noticed something. It changed the way I wrote. The personal stories got less and less, and the blog became more like a machine I had to feed. I became obsessed with stats and tracking and checked my Adsense account often. It changed the way I blogged, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Right around this time, blogging exploded – especially parent blogs. Mommy and Daddy blogs were popping up left, right and centre. Sites like Minti and Babble appeared, and parents were forming and connecting online like never before. Blogging about your experiences as a parent became a business model, and I noticed that authenticity I saw in the early days disappearing from the blogosphere. Actually, authenticity became a business strategy. Me included. And I’m not feeling comfortable with it these days.

So, I am going to be removing the advertising from my site. I want to reclaim this space and reconnect with why I started blogging in the first place. It’s about me – this is my story, these are my memories. I put them out there as a way of both sharing and connecting, commiserating when the days are tough, and celebrating when the days are good.

I need to dump the ad’s. That is the first thing I need to do in order to reclaim this space as my own.

Hurting our daughters

It sickens me to think that these girls are the same age as my daughter. My reaction in seeing these photos was nothing short of visceral. Disgust. Sadness. Anger.

These are some of the images from the December issue of Vogue Paris, featuring models as young as 6 years old.

“Cadeaux”. Translated it means gifts. I am sure they title refers to the clothes these little girls are wearing. After all, Vogue Paris is a fashion magazine, and what 6 year old girl would be complete without their Bulgari bling.

Others have written about this much more eloquently than I have, including spelling out the reasons why these types of images are dangerous to our daughters. Therapist Ashley Solomon, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness, said this on her blog.

Portraying girls in adult apparel and situations and portraying adult women as young girls (à la Britney Spears sucking on a lollipop in a Catholic school girl uniform) reinforces the sexualization of youth, something that harms both girls and society.

In fact, the American Psychological Association created a Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and found that these media, products, and societal practices are significantly harming the healthy development of young girls. Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, Chair of the APA Task Force, stated unequivocally, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

Jennifer Grant also makes a point about this particular issue and the guest editor, Tom Ford that I also think is relevant.

Fashion designer Tom Ford was the guest editor and designed the controversial issue, including “Cadeaux.” Is it relevant that Ford is a close friend to photographer Terry Richardson (whose work is featured elsewhere in the December/January issue), and that Richardson has been accused of preying on child models and has written and gleefully performed a song called “Child Molester’s Coming For You”?

I think so.

And just to put this in context so we don’t miss the blatantly obvious point that this issue and magazine are all about the sex and not fashion, let’s look at the other photo essays in this magazine – one entitled “Pussy West”, and the other entitled “”Forever Love” featuring two elderly people who (according to this sensitive description by Hilary Alexander of The Times) are:

…so wrinkled they clearly have never had an intimate relationship with Botox, demonstrate that you may be geriatric but you can still get it on….

Well, good on them for still being able to “get it on”, but when you position provocative photos of little girls between other photo essays so obviously sexual, well then this becomes more than just pictures of little girls playing dress-up.

Dads, we need to be aware of these types of images, and how they harm not only our daughters, but society as well. This has to become an issue that we Dads not only talk about, but shout loudly about. Our young daughters are depending on us.

So please, spread the word. If you are a Dad who blogs and has a daughter, spend a few minutes and write a post about this yourself and send a message across the Dad blogs that this type of portrayl of our daughters is just not cool.

When the marketing department gets involved

Maybe funnier for me because today my girl turns 7 so we are right in birthday mode.

Embrace your inner 3 year old

This might be one of the most inspiring Ted Talks I have seen. The 3 A’s of Awesome or, as Open Culture calls it, the secrets to living an awesome life from Neil Pasricha, editor of the 1000 Awesome Things blog. Seriously, when you are feeling down, bookmark this puppy. Neil’s take on how to navigate adversity in your life and appreciate the little things is refreshing and all around wonderful.

If we are lucky, we get 100 years. A reminder of how to make the most of it.

Embracing the chaos – build a fort in the living room (if you can find the living room)

Giant Kid Fort

I loved this article from the NY Times on the movement to restore children’s play – a rallying cry for us parents to let go of our control freak order tendencies and leave it to the kids to rip apart the house and tackle some unstructured, imaginative play that involves loud noises, yells and dismantling of furniture.

Much of the movement has focused on the educational value of play, and efforts to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums. But advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well — starting with a willingness to tolerate a little more unpredictability in children’s schedules and a little less structure at home. Building that fort, for example, probably involves disassembling the sofa and emptying the linen closet. (A sheet makes an excellent roof.)

If you pop over our house, it’s a bloody mess most of the time. And sometimes the chaos does overwhelm and stress me out. Clutter everywhere. But I also see in that clutter the various superheros costumes my son dresses up in, the tinfoil robots and cardboard Viking shields, and my daughters ever present art supplies, strewn across three split levels.

And, as frustrating as I occasionally find it being asked to play with them only to be verbally thrashed and admonished because I am “not doing it right” when I have no idea what the hell “right” is, or even what it is we are playing, I know that I need to suck it up and have fun because it is important for them to be in control of whatever is going on, and for me to just go along with whatever scenario it is they have cooking up in their mind. Because in their mind me not “doing it right” is usually whenever I try to inject something of my own in their play, when in reality most of the time they just want me as a prop – a supporting actor in whatever epic fantasy they have cooking up in their heads but can’t always fully articulate.  It’s just part of the chaos. A challenge, for sure, and one that I am glad I am not alone in.

But promoting play can be surprisingly challenging to parents. Emily Paster, a mother of two in River Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb, tries to discourage screen time and encourage her children to play imaginatively. That usually works fine for her 7-year-old daughter, who is happy to play in her room with her dolls for hours. But her 4-year-old son is a different story, especially in the cold weather when he’s cooped up.

“If he wants to play, he always wants me to play with him,” Ms. Paster said. “This child has a million toys. Every kind of train you can imagine. But he really wants a partner. If I’m meant to get anything accomplished — dinner, laundry, a phone call — then it’s really difficult.”

I feel your pain, Emily. It’s bloody hard work when you are nothing but an ever present prop for a 4 year old’s imagination.

On a bit of a side note, another section of the article reinforces something I wrote about a couple days ago about overly safe (and ultimatley sterile) playgrounds for kids, and how play spaces these days are designed more for adult peace of mind that developing children.

Ms. Rosker has also campaigned, although unsuccessfully, to bring recess to her son’s elementary school. But school officials were too worried about potential injuries, unruliness and valuable time lost from academic pursuits to sign on to her idea and, she was surprised to find, many parents were similarly reluctant. “They said: ‘I’m not going to sign that. I’m sure there is a good reason why this is good for our kids — our school has good test scores.’ “

So, not only do we not want to give our kids challenging play spaces that help them develop, but we don’t even want to give them the time to do it because we are too concerned about “injuries and unruliness”. Something just feels wrong about that.

Image credit: Giant Kids Fort by Dave Bates used under Creative Commons license